Fans line up early for Aretha Franklin viewing

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Like many music fans around the world, LaTonya McIntyre was devastated to learn Aretha Franklin had died this month at age 76.

Buena Williams, 68, right, of St. Louis, Missouri, and her sisters Saudah Muhammad, left, of St. Louis and Lisa Scott, also of St. Louis, traveled eight hours to get in line early for Aretha  Franklin's viewing starting Tuesday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The Nevada resident grew up on the singer’s work and considered her a “musical mother,” so as soon as a public viewing in Detroit was announced, she booked a plane ticket and planned to arrive early enough to cinch the first spot in what should be a long line.

Seated in a portable chair perched outside the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History since around 4 p.m. Monday, McIntyre guaranteed no one else beat her to it.

“She touched so many people as a whole,” she said while wrapped in a pink blanket. “She’s royalty to me. I’m just here to pay my respects and say goodbye.”

Hours before the first day of the viewing, McIntyre joined a small, dedicated group eager to beat the crowd to commemorate a Motor City icon.

Julie Kaye Eatmon arrived just before midnight to position two blue folding chairs between metal barriers guarding the museum entrance for her and the Detroiter’s 87-year-old mother.

A small group gathered outside the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Monday night to secure early spots before the public viewing for Aretha Franklin.

The construction superintendent recalled relatives blasting Franklin’s songs throughout her childhood, so staying up all night ahead of the viewing was a given, she said.

“It’s the Queen of Soul,” she said. “I’m so proud of her. Without her I don’t think love songs would have evolved the way they have. She made a big impact with everybody.”

Franklin’s legacy reverberated for Buena Williams, a Missouri resident who spent summers with her grandmother in Detroit and still can recall how the song “Respect” became an anthem in the 1960s.

That’s why Williams and her three sisters — Karen Hall, Saudah Muhammad and Lisa Scott — drove more than eight hours with Franklin songs on satellite radio to reach the public viewing early.

The group camped out with jackets; a red, white and blue blanket; and a perfect spot near a CVS Pharmacy in case they needed refreshments.

“We’re very happy to be here,” Williams said. “I grew up on the soundtrack of her music.
I felt the need to come and say goodbye to the queen who I felt so deeply about.”